BOSTON (CBS) — The staff at The Athletic set out this summer to rank the top 100 players in the history of the NFL. The player at the top of the list won’t surprise anyone in New England.

That player, of course, was Tom Brady. The Athletic announced Brady as the greatest player in football history this week, with the 44-year-old set to embark on his 22nd NFL season and his seventh season as a reigning Super Bowl champion.

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“When you hear about people talk about Michael Jordan, how competitive he was, Tom is just like that,” Julian Edelman said in the accompanying story, written by Jeff Howe. “Those special, special people have the chemical makeup for greatness, and that’s what Tom Brady has.”

The list — which was an ambitious endeavor to compile — was made by a panel of football journalists: former NFL managing editor Lisa Wilson and Pro Hall of Fame voters Ed Bouchette, Jeff Duncan, Dan Pompei and Mike Sando.

The top 10 looked like this:

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10. Dick Butkus
9. Johnny Unitas
8. Walter Payton
7. Peyton Manning
6. Joe Montana
5. Reggie White
4. Lawrence Taylor
3. Jerry Rice
2. Jim Brown
1. Tom Brady

Other Patriots on the list are cornerback Mike Haynes (No. 79), linebacker Junior Seau (No. 59), tight end Rob Gronkowski (No. 56), wide receiver Randy Moss (No. 38), and guard John Hannah (No. 25).

Outside of the quarterbacks in the top 10, other QBs on the list are Otto Graham (No. 11), John Elway (No. 15), Dan Marino (No. 18), Aaron Rodgers (No. 21), Brett Favre (No. 22), Sammy Baugh (No. 23), Jim Parker (No. 42), Drew Brees (No. 43), Sid Luckman (No. 48), Steve Young (No. 49 — how appropriate!), Bart Starr (No. 61), Terry Bradshaw (No. 69), Roger Staubach (No. 78), Bobby Layne (No. 89), and Fran Tarkenton (No. 95).

On Brady, though, it’s the unparalleled drive for success and the unprecedented run of winning that earned him the top spot. As Hall of Famer Ty Law said to Howe, Brady is the “alpha GOAT.”

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“When you talk about GOATs and the legends of the league, the alpha GOAT, that’s Tom Brady,” Law said. “That’s the alpha GOAT, and there should be no debate about it. He’s in the same breath as when you talk about Michael Jordan, LeBron, Wayne Gretzky. When you’re talking about the Mount Rushmore of sports, Tom Brady’s face is up there.”

CBSBoston.com Staff